The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) says the UK should let in more immigrants - but only if they earn more than £30,000 a year.
What it means: The MAC, which isn’t part of any political party, tells the government what their migration policies should be. They’ve just released a report on what we should do with our borders after Brexit, and it’s not good news for so-called ‘low skilled’ foreign workers. (Nobody ever really defines what ‘low-skilled’ is, but it tends to be used to describe jobs that don’t require any special training or education).
MAC reckons the UK has about 870,000 low-skilled workers, who are mostly from the EU and work in everything from farms to factories to hospitals and care homes. MAC says that these people have done a really great job of boosting the bits of our economy that they work in but that those bits are ‘not necessarily the parts of the UK economy that we want to be growing’.
It’s not clear what MAC has got against fruit picking or looking after old people, but it is clear what their beef is with low-skilled workers. They say the government has to spend too much money on them, through things like welfare benefits, and that they make things worse for locals by pushing their wages down. (Btw, that’s a controversial opinion. Plenty of others say that things like the financial crisis and industrial decline are bigger causes of low wages and immigrants are just the scapegoat).
But MAC is not completely anti-immigration. It thinks high-skilled migrants are pretty awesome and ‘bring clear benefits to the UK’. MAC wants the government to scrap its limit on Tier II visas, which is currently 20,700. Tier II visas are only given for graduate jobs which pay more than £30,000 a year. The median UK salary - that’s the salary of the person who has exactly the same number of people earning more and less than them - is £28,677.
But lots of business bosses are annoyed about the MAC report. They say restricting low-skilled workers will make it hard for them to fill jobs because Brits don’t want or know how to do the work. But the report is very similar to things the government has already said it wants with post-Brexit migration, so it’s likely to become policy.
We’ve moved beyond a world where your country was all that matters. Our economies have become bigger than we realise. Things we use are less and less likely to come from our own country and more likely to have been imported from a country across the globe – this has become so normal that we’ve forgotten what a huge implication this has for how our economies work…